Ilford started marketing this paper in Canada in early 2018. Their Canadian distributor, having seen my reviews of several other washi-type papers, suggested I may wish to have a look at this one. I did, and I liked what I saw, so I decided to write it up and share with you my observations, admittedly “a bit” later on in time!
Ilford describes the product as a fine art paper with a traditional Washi Japanese base and a finely textured surface consisting of an Ilford inkjet coating. It was made to have “the look and feel of Japanese hand-made paper”, contains no optical brighteners and is acid-free. The weight is 110gsm. In North America it is available in six sheet sizes and two roll sizes; sheet: 4”x6”, 5”x7”, US Letter, 11”x17”, A3+ and 17”x22”; roll: 24”x 49’ and 44”x49’. It’s profile for the Epson SC-P5000 printer is keyed to Epson USFAP.
As usual, I present my statistical findings based on profile measurements and test target prints, followed by an assessment of prints of real-world photographs.
Figure 1 summarizes my analytic data for this paper.
The gamut volume is relatively low compared with the expected numbers for the better MK ink papers (Figure 2, comparing Washi Torinoko with Canon Fine Art Smooth); however, don’t be deterred by this. Gamut volume data does not tell the whole story about how colour rendition may be perceived. We’ll visit that notion anon.
The basic profile data (White point, Black point, RGB boundary values) are quite similar between the Ilford profile and my custom profile “Mark”. The Black point value of L*18 from the profile or 19~20 read from the prints indicates that the paper reflects a slightly less dense Black than found in some matte papers, where the lowest values with M0/M1/M2 profiles, tend to be in the range of L*14~15. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story about black shading appearance.
Turning to printing accuracy using the Ilford and Mark profiles, Figures 3 and 4 show average dE values of 2.9 and 1.8 respectively. Both averages are skewed by the very poor performance of Blue, at dE 19.6 and 17.0 respectively, for all three parameters (L*, a*, b*). The Ilford profile produced higher Luminance, much less red and far less Blue than it should have, as did the custom profile, but to a slightly lesser extent. If the dE for Blue were say 1.8, the average dE would have decreased to 2.2 for the Ilford profile and 1.1 for the custom profile. Seeing such egregious outcomes for this one colour in both profiles and the fact that rereading the Blue patch several times produced no appreciable change, I concluded that the paper has some kind of issue with the colour Blue, in this case, that the Blue patch is considerably out of gamut (Figure 5). But blues still print looking blue as I’ll show below – it’s just not all that accurate.
Figure 5 indicates that four of the twenty-four patches are out of profile gamut, the Blue being the furthest away. A word of caution – these graphs are difficult to interpret exactly because there is no uniquely correct perspective from which to view them, and as they are rotated, the positioning of the patches relative to the gamut plot shifts. I positioned it to show which patches are out of gamut no matter how the graph is rotated.
Figures 6, 7 and 8 show fidelity of tonal gradation in the Dark, Mid-tone and Light zones.
The corresponding data in Figure 1, rows 24 to 26 (Dark tones) indicates high dE values for the Luminance scale, explained by the fact that the paper’s Black point is 19~20, versus the reference value of zero. Rows 25 and 26 indicate that hue neutrality is quite well preserved in both profiles. From levels L*19~20 to L*35, printed luminance accuracy is fine (Mark profile) or good (Ilford profile).
Both profiles track the Mid-tones linear reference gradient very closely. Also, the data in rows 29 and 30 (Figure 1) indicate good preservation of hue neutrality for both profiles.
As well for the Light tones, both profiles track the linear gradient quite closely, and both taper-off at about L*94, being about the value of paper White (Figure 1, row 4). Once again, hue neutrality is well preserved in both profiles (Figure 1, rows 33 and 34).
Turning to the all-important question of what the prints look like, the data indicates that the paper profiles well, but the gamut is quite limited. Hence, we know from the start that if we were previously printing photos to a wider gamut matte or luster paper, we would need to adjust, under soft proof, various settings in our photo editors if we wished to approximate those kinds of image appearance on this paper. This is judgmental regarding what we think works well with the character of the paper.
I selected a number of my mural art photographs from Berlin with which to test this paper, because I thought a Washi-type paper should work well with graphic arts subject matter; but I also tested a couple of more traditional scenes – one urban and a landscape. I was not disappointed. As I’ve done before, I scanned the prints in my Epson V850 using SilverFast 8 to replicate the originals as faithfully as I could, recognizing of course that viewing prints over the internet is not a great substitute for seeing the “real thing”. Nonetheless, you can visualize the tonality and colour reasonably well.
I believe these photos indicate the paper can reproduce both bold vivid colour and subtle tonal gradations notwithstanding its statistically narrow gamut. Its ability to reproduce sharp edge detail is also very good. The feel and appearance of the paper is most pleasing. The paper is thin enough to use it for ancillary purposes, such as making greeting cards or letters with embedded photos meant to be folded and place in envelopes.
I recommend those with an interest in this kind of paper should give it a try.